Go to the Videotape
by Dave Kehr
New York Times
November 2, 2001
Robert Sean Leonard, the 32-year-old actor who won a Tony Award for his work in Tom Stoppard's "Invention of Love" last season and is currently playing the lead in "The Music Man" on Broadway, isn't impressed with his own abilities as an actor on film, despite the strong performance he turns in on the independent feature "Tape," opening today in New York.
"I've never considered myself a film actor," Mr. Leonard said. "I don't think I excel at it. I'm fine, but I think I'm much better onstage. There's fine, and then there's Montgomery Clift. Susan Sarandon is one of them; Meryl Streep is one of them. Their faces, they glow."
"Tape" is based on a play by Stephen Belber that had its premiere at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theater of Louisville, Ky. "Ethan Hawke called me and said, `I found this great one- act I'd like you to read,' " said Mr. Leonard, who appeared with Mr. Hawke in the 1989 film "Dead Poets Society." "Ethan said he'd love to do it maybe with me and Uma Thurman, with Rick Linklater directing."
Which is how it worked out. The actors rehearsed the piece — a tense, confrontational drama about high school friends involved in what may be a case of date rape — for two weeks. Then they shot the film in a small studio in Chelsea in seven days, using digital video technology.
"Digital video is much more actor- friendly than film, as far as I'm concerned," Mr. Leonard said. "The lighting is simpler, the camera work is easier, and obviously you can go back and tape over it if you don't like what you did. It's less expensive, so there's less pressure. I like everything about it."